A man in Orpington is embracing his 40th year as the CEO of a cutlery business, as the company is part of the story of five family generations.

Nella Cutlery is a knife sharpening service company in the UK, that supplies food processing and kitchen equipment to businesses across the nation.

Mark Nella, the CEO of Nella Cutlery, honours the company on being sustainable, and says their services are a “cost effective” way to maintain a safe and eco-friendly environment in kitchens across the UK.

Mark says he and his family are “exceptionally” proud of his heritage, as his great grandfather began Nella Cutlery in 1901.

News Shopper: Mark and sons (images: Nella Cutlery)Mark and sons (images: Nella Cutlery)

The knife sharpening service allows customers to “always” have clean, quality knives, by replacing old ones for new, and sharpening old knives so they can be used again and again.

Mark told the News Shopper: “The company has been going for more than 120 years now and I’ve got five children in the business – so it’s a full family company.

News Shopper: Carla Nella (right), Mario and son in law Adam Ayres (left)Carla Nella (right), Mario and son in law Adam Ayres (left)

“My great grandfather started the business by walking through northern Italy, an hour north of Lake Garda in the Italian Dolomites, which at the time was part of the Austrian Empire.

“He walked to England pushing a grindstone and sharpening knives – it took him one year and he finally settled in Deptford.

News Shopper: Marks Grandfather, Pietro Nella (images: Nella Cutlery)Marks Grandfather, Pietro Nella (images: Nella Cutlery)

“When he was here, he worked with local butcher shops and seven years later, brought his family over to England.

“My grandfather then bought the business and moved his grindstone to the back of a van.”

News Shopper: (images: Nella Cutlery)(images: Nella Cutlery)

Nella Cutlery trades with butchers, supermarkets, and restaurants to supply them with new knives every time the old ones become blunt.

Mark says Nella Cutlery has around 250 employees – including factory workers, admin staff and drivers.

News Shopper: (images: Nella Cutlery)(images: Nella Cutlery)

He added: “We have six other distribution hubs around the country – including Luton, Birmingham, Scotland, and of course our Orpington site, which has the biggest distribution centre.

“We’ve also just opened one in Calais, France – as we’re recently started a French centre.”

Mark says running Nella Cutlery during the pandemic was “very, very tough” as the company had to close down for the first few weeks

He says the business was then stated as an essential, as he claims the company had national contracts with businesses who were serving food during the pandemic – such as Tesco.

News Shopper: (images: Nella Cutlery)(images: Nella Cutlery)

Mark said: “It was basically just me and my kids in the office and in the factory.

“We went from 100 vans to six vans – so it was it was dire, but we got through it.

“The second stage of the lockdowns wasn’t too bad as a lot of restaurants started to move to take away services, so they were still trading with us.”

“The rental knife service is a way to make the company more sustainable”, Mark says, as he claims it prevents customers from throwing knives out and buying new ones.

Not only this, but the company also offers a rental service for chopping boards, which Mark claims many restaurants and business use.

News Shopper: (images: Nella Cutlery)(images: Nella Cutlery)

He added: “Replacing the food board helps reduces the carbon footprint by 90% - as opposed to buying a new board every time you need one.

“That equates to 10.3 kilos of CO2 emissions for one board and now we're resurfacing seven to 8000 boards a week in our in our factory in Orpington.

“This service has been running for three years but it’s been accepted brilliantly by restaurants, hotels and so on.

“The cost of the service is 75 per cent cheaper than buying a new board – so it’s sustainable and cost effective.”

Mark says the biggest success of the company is “building up to be a national presence”.

News Shopper: Monument to Mark's great grandfather, Emilio Nella, with Mark standing next to it in their home Village of Carisolo (images: Nella Cutlery)Monument to Mark's great grandfather, Emilio Nella, with Mark standing next to it in their home Village of Carisolo (images: Nella Cutlery)

He added: “It took us a long time to get here, but once we had the footprint of a national presence, it meant that we could go out and pick up some really good national contracts, like Tesco, Compass Group and national pub companies.

“We’re looking to expand our company into new territories and the obvious answer was France and Northern Europe.

“The world has become more of a throwaway society over the years, but by making these small changes, such as reusing and repairing kitchen equipment, helps towards sustainability and can save people money.”